The ancient city of Qalhat – World Cultural Heritage in Oman

The property is located on the east coast of the Sultanate of Oman, including the ancient city of Qalhat, surrounded by inner and outer walls, as well as areas outside the ramparts where the graveyards are located. The city developed as a major port on the east coast of Arabia from the 11th to 15th centuries AD, during the reign of the princes of Hormuz. The ancient city bears unique archaeological evidence of trade links between the east coast of Arabia, East Africa, India, China and Southeast Asia.

Accreditation year: 2018
Criteria: (ii)(iii)
Area: 75.82 ha
Buffer zone: 170.09 ha

Outstanding global value

The ancient city of Qalhat is located on the east coast of the Sultanate of Oman, about 20 kilometers north of the city of Sur. The property includes the entire Old City of Qalhat, delimited by its inner and outer walls, spread over 35 hectares, as well as areas outside the walls where the graveyards are located.

The city is an important port in the Sea of ​​Oman along the East Arabian Coast, allowing trade with the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean and thus acting as a center of commerce between India and the East, Southeast Asia and the Arabian Peninsula. . Qalhat flourished in the 11th to 16th centuries AD under the rule of the Princes of Hormuz, who coordinated important exports of horses, dates, agarwood and pearls. After the Portuguese raids, the Old City of Qalhat was abandoned in the 16th century and has since been preserved as an archaeological site. The remains and site monuments comprehensively represent a port city of the Kingdom of Hormuz and reflect its heritage, architecture and urban design.

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Criterion (ii): Qalhat represents the cultural and commercial exchange of values ​​within the commercial sphere of the Kingdom of Hormuz, extending to India and as far as China and Southeast Asia. The Qalhat Archaeological Site provides physical evidence of these crossings, recording architectural features that reveal artifacts, dates, Arabian horses as well as its own spices and pearls but also integrates the multicultural characteristics of a medieval cosmopolitan city, with houses influenced by the needs of different owners and residents of foreign cultural backgrounds. The old city also includes a number of highly representative buildings mentioned in the stories of historical travelers.

Criterion (iii): The ancient city of Qalhat is a unique testament to the Kingdom of Hormuz, as it prospered from the 11th to 16th centuries AD. The ancient Qalhat offers exceptional evidence of a major trading center, which was ruled by the Princes of Hormuz and profited from its geopolitical position in the region. It was a seasonal residence and refuge for the Princes of Hormuz, who gave it the title of secondary capital of the larger kingdom. The urban planning and excavated buildings of Qalhat reveal the specific features and characteristics of the Kingdom of Hormuz and the archaeological remains are its fullest representation and provide further potential for understanding the more details on its way of life and commerce.


All major components of the Old City of Qalhat are within the property boundaries, including the entire city within the muros and structures just outside the city walls. The remains of the walls and street structures provide evidence representative of the Kingdom of Hormuz, with archaeological finds adding to our understanding of how it worked.

The ancient city of Qalhat poses no major threat, with the highway along the western side of the site being an unfortunate interference in the past. It is important that future infrastructure and other developments in the vicinity of the property avoid any negative impact on the larger landscape quality of the site. In case the number of visitors increases in the future due to new sightseeing concepts, Qalhat needs the tourist flow to be controlled and managed to avoid any pressure and behaviour.

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The ancient city of Qalhat has since been abandoned in the 16th century as an archaeological site. Its architectural and urban textures and forms remain original, almost untouched, as does its context. The abandonment of the Old City of Qalhat played an active role in preserving its authenticity. The site has been uninhabited since the 16th century and, therefore, it preserves all the organizational, functional and architectural features corresponding to the Islamic Period in general and the Royal period. the Hormuz nation in particular. Site conservation, visitor management, and presentation plans aim to maintain this state to the greatest extent possible.

Likewise, archaeological excavations have been well planned, thorough and minimal, an approach that should be commended and continued. Conservation works carried out after excavation will also be guided by minimally invasive methods. The location of the Old City of Qalhat among the mountains, deep valleys and sea is essential for much of its retained authenticity in the context. Authenticity in the sense is related to both the authenticated history of the site and the stories and myths associated with it, which will be respected in the overall management approach.

Protection and management requirements

The ancient city of Qalhat is designated as a national cultural heritage site of Oman and is therefore subject to national heritage protection at the highest legal level under Royal Decree No. The same Royal Decree also ensures the protection of the buffer zone around the relevant heritage sites. Law protection is effectively implemented through fences and security guards patrolling the archaeological area. Before the property was closed to the public for conservation, the part of the site around Bibi Maryam was protected by residents of the neighboring village, this was broken when the site was closed and visiting visit is discontinued. This guardianship tradition will be reactivated as part of the future visitor concept.

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The administrative organization responsible for protection and management is the Ministry of Heritage and Culture. The General Department of Archeology as part of the Ministry’s administrative structure oversees the day-to-day management of the site. A management plan has been finalized and formally adopted in June 2018, which will guide the establishment of a unit and a strengthened management system in place. In the face of possible risks from earthquakes or other natural disasters, this management system should integrate disaster preparedness and disaster management strategies.

The property is currently closed to visitors for the purposes of continued excavation and conservation measures and no visitor infrastructure exists. While reopening is expected and with it the need for visitor infrastructure, concrete plans for visitor infrastructure and services have yet to be developed. Therefore, Heritage Impact Assessments should be performed prior to the approval of any visitor infrastructure in or around the site to prevent potential negative impacts on the Value. Global Highlights.

Map of the Ancient City of Qalhat

Video of the Ancient City of Qalhat

See also: UNESCO World Cultural/Natural Heritage Sites

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